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Women Trot Out Political Statements on the Red Carpet

Variety logo Variety 2/23/2017 Jasmin Rosemberg
© Provided by Variety

Women in entertainment have been taking a stand this awards season, challenging both conventional dress codes and policies they see as oppressive.

In keeping with the trend bolstered by such grassroots election campaigns as Pantsuit Nation and #wearwhitetovote, the major awards shows have seen a significant number of women eschewing gowns in favor of authoritative trouser looks and sporting plenty of white — symbolic of the Suffragists and, more recently, showing support for Hillary Clinton, who made the campaign rounds in sharp pantsuits.

“It was kind of an appropriate time for a woman to wear pants,” says Linda Medvene, who styled Felicity Huffman in a white-and-gold Georges Chakra jumpsuit for the Golden Globes. The pair had been contemplating “powerful women” when Medvene’s 17-year-old daughter pulled the eye-catching look from the rack. “It was feminine but strong and powerful,” says Medvene. “A woman doesn’t always have to be in a dress to be strong and beautiful and sexy.”

Huffman informed the Hollywood Foreign Press that her pantsuit was in honor of Clinton. “Love you, Hillary,” she said. “I’m with her.”

Also at the Globes, Kathryn Hahn of “Transparent” sported a black Brandon Maxwell suit, while Octavia Spencer of “Hidden Figures” wore navy Laura Basci.

“A pantsuit is no less sexy, chic, or feminine than a dress,” says Basci, who designed the look to exude power. “Rules are just a misconception.”

Stylist Kareem James put her client Danielle Brooks in white Christian Siriano trousers for SAG.

“They show a strength and a dare to be yourself,” James says. Similarly daring at the SAG Awards, Gwendoline Christie picked a black sequined one-piece by noted activist Vivienne Westwood; Naomie Harris rocked a Lanvin jumpsuit; and Evan Rachel Wood wore her sixth Altuzarra pantsuit this season, telling E! she hopes to teach young girls that dresses “aren’t a requirement.”

Isabelle Huppert, Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett, Lady Gaga, and Annette Bening

are among others who have appeared in white pantsuits over the past politically charged months.

Was Clinton an inspiration? “I think so,” says Medvene, who outfitted Bening for her “20th Century Women” tour. “I think women all get together, and we’re all like, okay, we have to empower each other.”

There were also sartorial moments of protest. At the Golden Globes, Lola Kirke of “Mozart in the Jungle” wore a discreet “F— Paul Ryan” pin (in the same Planned Parenthood pink as her Andrew Gn gown) after Ryan announced his intention to defund the organization.

“The contradiction of the femininity of the dress and the directness of that slogan, buried in the blur of flowers, was carefully considered,” says Kirke’s stylist, Susan Winget, who created the pin.

Before the SAG Awards, Kerry Washington posted a photo of a safety pin — a new symbol of defiance and solidarity, also worn memorably in a hairdo by Janelle Monáe — with a message promoting inclusion: “I’ll be wearing one of these tonight. On my arm. To show solidarity. We will not stop fighting for our safety & the safety of our fellow citizens and human beings.”

Jocelyn Towne was even more outspoken: She showed up at SAG with the words “Let them in” emblazoned across her chest. “The decision to do it was easy; the immigration ban is unconstitutional and inhumane,” says Towne. “I knew it would reach a lot of people, so I had to seize the opportunity. What better way to use the red carpet at a time like this?”

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